Saturday, January 21, 2017

It's a big world. Some people like definite articles.

I know I know, I am the only person in the United States paying any attention to what is happening in the Gambia. But is it still "the Gambia"? The news articles I have been reading have all quietly switched to "Gambia" (without the definite article).

Definite articles in country names seem to have fallen out of favor, at least since Ukraine went on its P.R. offensive against "the Ukraine." English speakers have been dropping English-language definite articles from country's names around the world since Ukrainians made everyone think a "the" could be some kind of slight. (Note: this only applies to the English definite article in a country's name. El Salvador still has its "El" and Algeria still has its "Al"). But the Gambia is really different from Ukraine. The "the" is officially part of its name (the "the" is supposed to be capitalized, something that even I, otherwise a champion of the "the Gambia" cause, don't do) and Gambians (at least the very few that I have encountered) usually insist upon the "the." So isn't leaving off the "the" (err, excuse me, the "The") an insult to Gambians just as saying "the Ukraine" was deemed an insult to Ukrainians?